Inimitable natural conditions, unique aboriginal culture and a rich and varied history all combine to make the Northwest Territories events calendar one of the most interesting and diverse calendars in the North American Continent. Celebrate the end of 30 days of polar darkness at the annual sunrise festival, or at the opposite end of the year, tee-off under the perpetual midnight sun. Enjoy celebrations that are deeply rooted in First Nations culture, or be awe-struck by the tales of the mad trapper and modern NWT history. In the NWT, the traditional and the contemporary come together under the dancing aurora borealis and you’re invited to make memories that will last a lifetime.
Inuvik Sunrise Festival – January
Each January, the town of Inuvik celebrates the end of 30 days of polar darkness by gathering together around a bonfire and watching the first sunrise of the year. Sunrises by land, sea or air, are always beautiful; but Arctic sunrises are something else altogether…
Mad Trapper Jamboree – April
One of the most fascinating and notorious manhunts of the 20th century is remembered at the ‘Mad Trapper Jamboree’ in late April. Albert Johnson AKA the Mad Trapper, took Canadian authorities on a 150 mile, month-long manhunt across tundra, mountain and ravine in the depths of a harsh arctic winter. The community comes together to take part in a series of events – including dancing and dog-sledding – to remember this mysterious piece of modern Canadian history.
Paddlefest – May
Paddlefest is a two day festival that brings together kayakers, canoers and paddle sports fans for the chance to watch and take part in on-water demonstrations and workshops, as well as sample and survey the numerous wares that the industry bring out for show. This is not a festival exclusively for those well versed in the paddle sports scene however, as the annual ‘First Time SUPin’ invites newcomers to experience the thrills and spills of Stand Up paddle boarding (SUP).Read more
National Aboriginal Day – June 21st
Held on the longest day of the year, the celebrations marking National Aboriginal Day are vibrant, varied and thoroughly cultural. Workshops, performances and sacred ceremonies all aim to showcase the cultures and practices of First Nation and aboriginal communities who’s histories and traditions are rooted in the soil of the NWT.
Beer Barge – June
Marking the seasonal arrival of Yellowknife’s first supply barge in the 1940’s, the Beer Barge celebration started in 2009 and attempts to emulate the atmosphere of what was formerly the biggest party in town – the arrival of months and months’ worth of supplies, the most important of which was, of course, the beer. Here you can whet your whistle whilst listening to local musical talent, eating some finely Barbecued meats and marvelling at the costumes and colours that are all out to play.
Great Northern Arts Festival – July
For close to 30 years, the fascinating town of Inuviki has played host to the biggest arts festival of the Northwest. Celebrating artistic traditions and exciting developments in the NWT’s thriving arts scene, this 10 day festival brings the entire community together in a showcasing of contemporary and modern art and design.
Folk on the Rocks – July
Running since 1980, this music festival attracts musicians from across the width and breadth of Canada and even further afield. This weekender always boasts a selection of highly talented artists of both national and local fame and the performances are complimented by show casings of local culture, art, cuisine and events that the whole family can enjoy. There’s a pretty impressive beer garden as well…
The Dark Sky Festival – August
This is a festival that is all about taking advantage of the crystal clear skies that hang over the Northwest Territories. For budding star-gazers, science buffs, or simply those who are partial to glancing up in wonder; the Dark Sky Festival promises to indulge your astronomical curiosity and make learning about the science of the skies a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Festival of the Midnight Sun – September
An arts market, live music and ice cold beverages form the backbone of the festival that celebrates the ‘extension’ of summer. The northern phenomena of perpetual light and perpetual darkness are experiences in themselves, but this celebration of the former is a brilliant way to learn more about the NWT, its traditions and the unique natural occurrences there.
Western Arctic Moving Pictures Film Festival – October
Aiming to promote, support and showcase the filmic talents of directors across the Northwest Territories, WAMP film festival is an annual event that occurs in the month of October. Offering live screenings, workshops and Q&A sessions; WAMP is a thoroughly absorbing experience that can expose film fans to the burgeoning and unique landscape of NWT cinema.